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UPDATE 2-OPAL, NextEra Energy unit to build renewable gas facility in Minnesota

(Adds background on U.S. RNG, other companies)

April 28 (Reuters) - Privately held OPAL Fuels LLC and a unit of NextEra Energy are planning the first landfill renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility in Minnesota, the companies said Wednesday, as U.S. consumers and governments demand more clean energy.

Landfill gas, like gas from animal waste, food waste and sewage treatment plants, is mostly methane, the second-biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. In its first 20 years in the atmosphere, methane has 80 times more heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide.

The energy industry is the biggest contributor to methane emissions in the United States, followed by agriculture and waste management, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

NextEra will work with OPAL to replace an existing power plant with a new RNG production facility that will capture 3,200 standard cubic feet per minute of landfill gas and produce over 6 million gas gallon equivalents (GGE) of RNG per year, the companies said.

The gas can be cleaned to remove impurities and injected into natural gas pipelines as RNG or consumed on site.

NextEra is the country’s most valuable electricity provider and the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy. Its shares have returned more than 67% in the last two years.

The RNG project at Republic Services Inc’s Pine Bend landfill is OPAL’s sixth in a series of 12 RNG projects that will require nearly $500 million of capital investment. It will capture the equivalent of more than 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking approximately 435,000 passenger cars off the road.

Republic Services is involved with gas-to-energy projects at 69 of its landfills, and 20% of its fleet is powered by natural gas, including RNG from landfills.

The project will interconnect with a pipeline owned by a unit of Minnesota energy company Xcel Energy Inc.

Numerous companies, from oil-and-gas giants Chevron to power companies like NextEra, have announced projects that they say will take methane out of the atmosphere.

Other big users of RNG include United Parcel Service Inc, which in 2019 announced plans to buy more than 6,000 natural gas-powered trucks over three years and step up purchases of RNG as part of a $450 million investment to reduce the environmental impact of its 123,000-vehicle fleet.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino and Laura Sanicola in New York; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Shinjini Ganguli and Andrea Ricci

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